It seems that the "anti-vaccine" movement is still alive and well and has been a hot topic on Twitter and Facebook again. Unfortunately, much of what I have read on these sites seems to be inaccurate and based on a lot of emotion and very little science. But, emotional posts can be quite persuasive, especially to a new parent who wants to do EVERYTHING for their new child. I would think that would include protecting them from deadly diseases that have NOT been totally eradicated.
One of the first things you learn during your early medical school days is the mantra that doctors should "first do no harm". I have continued my daily pediatric practice with that in mind.....so how could I not vaccinate my precious patients? Vaccines have been well studied ( and continue to be studied) and absolutely DO protect children (and adults) from numerous diseases....including polio, bacterial meningitis, whooping cough and measles. Vaccines are also safe.....how many different studies does it take to assure parents of this?
Choosing to not vaccinate your child unfortunately can "cause harm". Do parents not realize that we are all exposed to diseases unknowingly? I know that there isn't a parent out there that would purposely expose their child to a disease....especially one that could cause death. But with that being said, the bacteria ( h. flu and pneumococcus) that cause meningitis are often harbored in a person's nose and are just a sneeze away from an unprotected baby. When I used to do spinal taps on a regular basis on very ill children, some of whom indeed had bacterial meningitis, every parent would ask, "how did my child get this?" The answer at that time was, "we don't know where they were exposed". Not a very good answer to give parent's of a critically ill child, some of whom would die.
Since the vaccines against meningitis have been released I have not seen a case of H.flu or Pneumococcal meningitis in my practice. I can't remember the last time I did a spinal tap. Those are memories I don't need to experience again. My office was also involved in the studies for the HIB meningitis vaccine and I saw first hand how labor intensive and difficult vaccine studies are. There were a lot of parents at that time that allowed us to stick their infants for blood samples on (many times, on a regular basis) to prove that the vaccine provided antibody and protection for their baby. Thank you to all of those parents!
So.... I continue to be alarmed that there are parents (often clustered in certain areas) that want to deny their child vaccines. I wonder what their baby would say, if they had the chance to choose to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, they don't.